Iraq allows entry to around 5,000 Pakistani pilgrims stranded on Iran border — Islamabad 

Passengers disembark off a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A320 aircraft after landing on the tarmac at Najaf International Airport which serves Iraq's central holy shrine city on October 30, 2021. (AFP/FILE)
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Updated 11 September 2022

Iraq allows entry to around 5,000 Pakistani pilgrims stranded on Iran border — Islamabad 

  • These Pakistanis were stranded after Iraqi government announced they could enter country only by air 
  • Pakistani interior minister took up the matter with his Iraqi counterpart in a phone call on Sunday 

ISLAMABAD: The Iraqi government has allowed around 5,000 Pakistani pilgrims, who were stranded on its border with Iran for the last few days, to enter the Gulf country, the Pakistani interior ministry said on Sunday. 

The Iraqi government recently announced that Pakistani pilgrims arriving for Arbaeen, the religious observance that occurs 40 days after the death of Imam Hussain (RA) on the 10th of Muharram, could only enter the country through Baghdad and Najaf airports, according to Pakistani state media. 

The Iraqi government said it had been unable to make sufficient arrangements for pilgrims, after which thousands of Pakistanis were stranded on the Iran-Iraq border. 

Pakistan’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah took up the matter in a telephonic call with his Iraqi counterpart Osman Ali Farhoud and requested him to allow entry to these stranded pilgrims, the Pakistani interior ministry said on Sunday. 

“On the request of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, [his] Iraqi counterpart Osman Ali Farhoud announced opening all entry points for Pakistani pilgrims,” the Pakistani interior ministry said in a statement. 

It said the Iraqi interior minister also announced immediate processing of all pending visa applications submitted by Pakistani pilgrims. 

The Pakistani and Iraqi interior ministers agreed to constitute a joint committee for a long-term resolution of different issues, according to the statement. 

They agreed to take steps to improve coordination between both ministries and for the promotion of Pakistan-Iraq ties. 

Pakistan’s anti-graft body to reopen corruption cases against former public office holders

Updated 21 September 2023

Pakistan’s anti-graft body to reopen corruption cases against former public office holders

  • The country’s top court ordered the reinstatement of cases against suspects who embezzled less than Rs500 million
  • Corruption cases against public officials were dismissed following amendments to the legal accountability framework

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s anti-graft body is seeking to reopen cases involving former government officials accused of embezzling less than Rs500 million, said the local media on Thursday, as the South Asian nation gears up for general elections in January next year.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan gave a verdict last week to reinstate corruption references against public office holders that were dismissed after the administration of former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif made amendments to the country’s accountability laws. These amendments specified that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) would not investigate corruption cases that involved less than Rs500 million.

According to local media reports, NAB has asked various authorities, including the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), provincial anti-corruption units, banking courts, and the police, to return the corruption references that had been transferred to them as a result of the amendments.

Some of these cases involve high-profile individuals, such as former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Shehbaz Sharif, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and Shaukat Aziz.

“The NAB headquarters has submitted an application before the registrar [of] accountability court Islamabad for [the] reopening of closed cases,” Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said, citing a NAB source.

The exact count of the cases that are expected to be reopened following the top court’s verdict is still not clear, though an estimate suggests they are likely to be between 1,600 to 1,800 cases.

Aside from the former premiers, other prominent politicians whose cases are expected to be reopened include former president Asif Ali Zardari, former federal ministers Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Khawaja Asif, and Rana Sanaullah, among others.

The development comes at a time when Pakistan is gearing up for the next general elections which will be held in January amid heightened political, economic, and security crises in the country.

Chinese vice president meets PM Kakar in New York, pledges support for Pakistan’s vital interests

Updated 21 September 2023

Chinese vice president meets PM Kakar in New York, pledges support for Pakistan’s vital interests

  • The premier expresses desire to revitalize US relations, attract American investment while addressing a think tank
  • Kakar invites investment in Pakistan’s mining sector, says government trying to create business-friendly environment

ISLAMABAD: A top Chinese official said on Thursday Pakistan occupied a unique place in Beijing’s neighborhood diplomacy, adding his country would support the core interests of the South Asian state and work for its economic prosperity.

The reiteration of China’s commitment to Pakistan’s development and diplomacy was made in a conversation that took place between Chinese Vice President Han Zheng and Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly session in New York.

The two leaders exchanged views on a wide range of issues, including a multibillion-dollar joint economic corridor project bilateral economic and financial cooperation.

The Pakistani prime minister acknowledged his country’s strategic partnership with China, thanking the government in Beijing for its unflinching support to Pakistan’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and socio-economic development.

“In his remarks, Vice President Han said that Pakistan-China friendship is unique and has withstood the vicissitude of time due to deep fraternal ties between the peoples of two nations,” said a statement released by Kakar’s office after the meeting.

“He added that as a close neighbor and iron-brother, Pakistan occupies a special position in China’s neighborhood diplomacy and that China would continue its efforts for safeguarding Pakistan’s core interests and for the economic development and prosperity of the people of Pakistan,” it continued.

Both leaders expressed satisfaction at the steady development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects and agreed to further enhance their cooperation on multilateral forums.


Later, the prime minister addressed an American think tank, Council on Foreign Relations, highlighting that his country’s partnership with Washington spanned over decades while expressing his desire to further “revitalize” it.

He maintained that his country wanted to pursue its own interests and did not want to indulge in bloc politics.

Kakar also said the US-Pakistan relation had witnessed “brisk momentum,” adding its broad-based nature made it difficult for anyone to view it “through the lens of another country.”

In this handout photo, taken and released by the Prime Minister's Office, Pakistan Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar (left) gestures during a session of Council of Foreign Relations on the sidelines of the 78th UNGA Summit in New York on September 21, 2023. (Photo courtesy: PMO)

“The United States is our largest export destination,” he continued. “Over the past year, Pakistan’s total exports to the US reached an impressive $8.4 billion. We need to work on US investment in Pakistan. As caretaker prime minister, I am making a priority to improve Pakistan’s business climate and attract US capital and expertise.”

The prime minister noted that over 80 US enterprises were already operating in Pakistan, contributing to the mutual prosperity of the two countries.

“This constitutes a good infrastructure for investment on which we build further investment partnership,” he added.


Earlier in the day, the prime minister met Jakob Stausholm, the chief executive officer of a leading global mining conglomerate Rio Tinto Group, asking him to consider investing in his country’s mineral sector.

Kakar highlighted Pakistan’s vast untapped mineral reserves which, he said, valued over $6 trillion of gold, copper, and rare earth metals.

He also mentioned the newly established Special Investment Facilitation Council in Pakistan, saying it was providing a single-window platform to foreign investors.

“He emphasized the significance of the mining sector as a priority for FDI [foreign direct investment], leveraging Pakistan’s abundant natural resources,” said a statement circulated by the PM Office.

In this handout photo, taken and released by the Prime Minister's Office, Pakistan Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar (left) gestures during a meeting with Rio Tinto Group head, Jakob Stausholm, on the sidelines of the 78th UNGA Summit in New York on September 21, 2023. (Photo courtesy: PMO)


Nawaz Sharif’s party plans mass welcome as he returns from self-exile ahead of January polls

Updated 21 September 2023

Nawaz Sharif’s party plans mass welcome as he returns from self-exile ahead of January polls

  • Sharif has announced to return to Pakistan from London on October 21 to spearhead his party’s election campaign
  • His political rivals say he must surrender before courts since he was serving jail term before leaving for London in 2019

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s political party is making preparations to welcome him on his return from London by organizing a mass gathering in the provincial capital of Punjab on October 21, as the election regulator announced its decision to hold national polls in the last week of January.

Sharif, a three-time prime minister, has been in London since November 2019 after securing medical bail following his conviction in two corruption references. The founding leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party remained in self-exile while the country was ruled by the rival political faction of ex-premier Imran Khan. However, his party leaders announced his return to the country last month, saying would be back on October 21 to spearhead the PML-N campaign ahead of the next general elections.

Sharif is planning his homecoming at a time when Pakistan is grappling with overlapping political, economic and security crises and he would have to deal with legal challenges of his own after being declared an absconder for violating his bail terms.

“We are organizing a massive public gathering at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore on October 21 to welcome Nawaz Sharif and make him inaugurate the party’s election campaign,” Talal Chaudhry, PML-N’s joint-secretary who is currently in London to attend party meetings, told Arab News over the phone, referring to a historic monument built at the place where Pakistan’s founding fathers demanded a sovereign Muslim state in March 1940.

Pakistan’s parliament was dissolved on August 9 to pave the way for the national elections within 90 days as per the constitution, though the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said it required at least four months to complete the delimitation of hundreds of provincial and federal constituencies ahead of the polls.

After significant political uncertainty in the country, the election regulator announced earlier in the day to hold elections in the last week of January.

“The final list of constituencies will be published on November 30,” it said in a statement. “After that, the elections will be held in the last week of January 2024 after a 54-day election program.”

Sharif’s party has started preparing to mobilize the public to give a “historic welcome” to him on his arrival in Lahore ahead of the national elections.

“We are going to organize a political power show on October 21 in Lahore,” Chaudhry said. “The party ticket holders have been assigned to bring workers to fill the space around Minar-e-Pakistan.”

The PML-N joint-secretary said there was no hurdle that could prevent Sharif’s return since the party’s legal team was already hard at work to deal with any outstanding issues.

“Nawaz Sharif is ready to return on October 21, come what may,” he continued. “He is ready to face the courts and all fabricated cases against him. We are also anticipating a landslide victory in the national election under his leadership.”

Asked about Sharif’s return to Pakistan, ex-PM Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said that “convicted criminals like Nawaz Sharif” were roaming around while their own party leader was languishing in prison on trumped up charges.

“We welcome Nawaz Sharif’s return, but will he be serving his remaining jail term or allowed to lead the election campaign,” Zulfi Bukhari, a PTI leader and Khan’s close aide, questioned. “There seem to be two laws in Pakistan. One for PTI and its allies and the another for Sharifs.”

Bukhari said his party would win the national elections “even if Imran Khan remains in jail and is not allowed to lead the party’s election campaign.”

“We have a complete strategy in place to contest the election and hope the authorities would allow us to run the campaign,” he continued, adding that any decision to let Sharif run the PML-N campaign would amount to “pre-poll rigging in Pakistan.”

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also applauded Sharif’s decision to return, but pointed out he should submit to local courts on his return.

“We welcome Nawaz Sharif’s decision to return, but he should first surrender to courts as per the law of the land,” PPP information-secretary Faisal Karim Kundi told Arab News. “If the courts allow him to run the election campaign, then he will be a free man to do it.”

Asked about the ECP’s announcement to hold elections in Pakistan in the beginning of the next year, he said: “The ECP announcement for the election in last week of January is vague as election schedule has yet to be announced.”

Security forces kill eight militants, detain five in northwest Pakistan — army

Updated 21 September 2023

Security forces kill eight militants, detain five in northwest Pakistan — army

  • Pakistan army says militants were killed in two separate operations in Bannu and North Waziristan districts
  • It maintains these militants were involved in numerous ‘terrorist’ activities against the country’s security forces

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani security forces on Thursday killed eight militants and arrested five others in two separate intelligence-based operations in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the army’s media wing said in a statement.
According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the first operation was conducted in the Jani Khel area of the Bannu district in which six militants were killed and five were taken into custody.
The second operation was carried out in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan district, killing two militants after an intense exchange of fire.
Datta Khel was part of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of the country which were later merged with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2018. The area used to be a stronghold of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants who carried out some of the deadliest attacks against Pakistani security forces.
The TTP is distinct from the Afghan Taliban, though its leaders have taken oath of allegiance to the administration in Kabul.
“On 21 September 2023, security forces conducted intelligence-based operations in two districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which resulted in the killing of eight terrorists and the apprehension of five terrorists and their facilitators,” the ISPR said.
It added the slain militants from Bannu were involved in numerous “terrorist” activities against the security forces, including the facilitation of a motorcycle-borne suicide attack on a military convoy in Jani Khel on August 23, in which nine soldiers were killed.
“Weapons and ammunition were also recovered from killed terrorists, [while] the sanitization of the surrounding areas is being carried out to neutralize any other terrorist found in the area,” the ISPR statement added. “Security forces of Pakistan remain determined to eliminate the menace of terrorism.”
Militancy in Pakistan witnessed a significant decline due to the army’s operations conducted in these areas in the past.
Following the return of Afghan Taliban to power in 2021, however, there has been a significant increase in attacks in regions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
This surge was primarily witnessed after a fragile truce between the TTP and the government in Islamabad collapsed in November last year.

Pakistan earmarks 10 state entities for possible privatization

Updated 21 September 2023

Pakistan earmarks 10 state entities for possible privatization

  • Caretaker finance minister says the accumulated losses for state-owned entities amount to $1.74 billion
  • According to interim privatization minister, only one bidder is left for money-guzzling Pakistan Steel Mills

KARACHI: Pakistan’s caretaker government moved on Thursday to improve governance at state-owned companies and earmarked 10 for privatization or turnaround efforts, as it strives to deliver reforms under its International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.

Under the $3 billion bailout package from the IMF, that was critical in averting a sovereign debt default, state-owned entities (SOEs), whose losses are burning a hole in government finances, will need stronger governance.

As of 2020, the accumulated losses for SOEs amounted to 500 billion rupees ($1.74 billion), said caretaker finance minister Shamshad Akhtar at a press conference.

She said under the government’s draft policy on SOEs, the appointment of independent directors will be through a nomination process, adding that no ministry would be able to issue directives to SOEs in order to improve governance.

Later on Thursday, Pakistan’s caretaker privatization minister Fawad Hasan Fawad said there was only one bidder left for Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM).

He said that prior to COVID-19, there were four companies that were interested and qualified to bid for PSM, but three of them have backed out for a variety of reasons including global demand for steel.

Fawad added that the caretaker government was in talks with the financial planner appointed for the transaction; and that only PSM’s operational assets were up for sale.

Pakistan has also been discussing outsourcing operations of several of its state-owned assets to outside companies.

In March, it kicked off outsourcing of operations and land assets at three major airports to be run under a public-private partnership, a move to generate foreign exchange reserves for its ailing economy.

The government has budgeted only about 15 billion Pakistani rupees ($52.42 million) in receipts from a stalled privatization process in its budget for the fiscal year 2024.